A shipment of 1 million doses of vaccine from China will be used to inoculate chickens over the next few days to contain a bird-flu outbreak, Mexico's National Union of Poultry Farmers, or UNA, said.

According to UNA, the number of farms with a confirmed presence of the flu virus has increased to 29, five more than indicated in the previous report, so that the epidemic has now affected close to 2.5 million barnyard fowl in the western state of Jalisco.

In a communique, UNA said that the first doses of the vaccine have arrived in Mexico and will be applied to the poultry population most likely to catch the "highly contagious" H7N3 strain of avian flu.

They also reported that the flu has caused the deaths of "at least a million fowl" in the Jalisco municipalities of Tepatitlan and Acatic, either from the virus itself or because they were slaughtered.

According to UNA officials consulted by Efe, another 7 million doses of vaccine are expected to arrive over the coming weeks to immunize a large part of the country's poultry farms.

UNA figures show that Mexico produces close to 2.5 million tons of eggs and 1.2 million tons of feedlot poultry meat per year.

Jalisco contributes 55 percent of national production and by April 2012 had exported close to 4.49 billion pesos ($335 million) worth of fresh, powdered, liquid and cooked eggs, according to estimates of Mexico's agriculture department.

The state governor, Emilio Gonzalez Marquez, said that "the spreading of the virus has diminished" because the infected farms have been kept in isolation.

Once the avian flu virus is eradicated, state and federal authorities will be able to launch strategies to repopulate poultry farms and start recovering the market, above all the U.S. market, Gonzalez said.

The outbreak has already cost 1,800 jobs in Jalisco, according to local farmers. 

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